Minnesota should better support foster youth toward graduation

Minnesota is currently in the middle of the 2016 legislative session. Among the many topics being addressed, education is one that affects us all. There will be focus on early childhood education, but increasing support services and special education will also receive attention. This is a critical time to address this issue, because according to the MinnPost article “What Education Issues are on Tap for Minnesota’s 2016 Legislative Session?” (March 3), Minnesota “currently ranks at the bottom of the barrel, nationally” for “student-support-services.”

Of the many gaps in support for students, one is a lack of support for youth in foster care to graduate from high school. The graduation rate for youth in care is around 50 percent, compared to the national average of 79 percent.

This is a result of a myriad of factors, but the fact that members of this often elusive and unseen population are graduating at a lower percentage than most students already identified as “at risk” means this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. A lack of education affects the whole nation.

The Jim Casey Opportunities Initiative calculated that, if we increased foster youth’s graduation rate to the national average, they would gain more employment and contribute an additional $2 billion per year in federal and state income taxes. Increased funding would allow for more services to help address the education barriers youth in foster care face and have a positive impact on the entire nation.

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